Until recently, I have always been one of the youngest in my crowd of friends. I have also always looked significantly younger than I am. (That used to make me sad and often frustrated - like when I was in the Navy and got carded for BUYING GAS for my car on my 19th birthday. Now? I kind of like it.)
I think the connection between how old you look and how old you act is strong - and not necessarily straight forward. Perceptions about age and aging shift subtly. Our ideas of what we think a certain age is going to be like are often very different from the way it seems to us when we get there. On my thirteenth birthday I wondered when I'd feel like a teenager. Confusing cultural messages about what age signifies abound. Uplifting slogans like "You're only as old as you feel!" and admonishments like "Act your age!" war with the next generation's comeback of "If my music is too loud, then you're too old!" Our mile markers along the journey are not precise. When are we "grown up"? When we make our first paycheck? Get a driver's license? Vote? Serve our country? Get shitfaced (legally) for the first time? Get married? Have a baby?
For me I'd done all of those things and still didn't FEEL grown up until I was trying to prove to my 6 year old cousin and my 2 year old son that it was possible to eat brussel sprouts without gagging. At 25, I'd never actually managed to eat brussel sprouts (and keep them down) before but I was highly motivated by an article I'd just read. This article seemed to imply that my child would die of malnutrition if I could not find a way to instill an appreciation of all things vegetable in him IMMEDIATELY. Apparently, moms can DESTROY a kid's chances of ever liking healthy food by failing to provide enticing, nutritious food during a critical developmental window lasting approximately three weeks in toddlerhood. I put on a jolly face. I made vegetables EXCITING and INTERESTING. Earlier in the week I had tackled the easier ones - sweet potatoes and carrots (with brown sugar!), peas (roly poly!) , squash and pumpkin (fun with gourds!), broccoli (with cheese), green beans (with dipping sauces!) and the like. I worked my way down the list and was stumped by brussel sprouts. Egad - do people still eat those? They were not only on the list but STARRED (meaning that if you were on a desert island this vegetable was soooo good for you that you should choose to be stranded with it above all.) I didn't even know how to fix brussel sprouts. I ended up buying frozen, buttered, baby sprouts with the jolly green giant on the box, figuring the big, green, leafy guy was more fun than the Kroger brand. I admit I was grasping at straws. MUCH to my surprise, I gulped down the first one and realized it was not horrid. I even chewed the next bite and LIKED it. It dawned on me somewhere in the middle of that second bite, that I must well and truly be a grown up now. Despite my vegetable epiphany, the brussel sprouts were not a hit with the pre-school crowd. I was too freaked out to worry about it. I kept thinking to myself that somehow I'd become a grown up and not even noticed it! I think I spent the next three days eating cheetos and drinking coke for breakfast.
Today I again feel like I turned a significant corner in the aging process without noticing. Somehow I've become middle aged without meaning to!! I've just come back from our first meeting with a financial planner. We PAID someone lots of money to spend an hour or two talking to us about insurance, wills, retirement accounts, and estate planning - and it was ENJOYABLE! It was affirming to find out we've been on the right track; it was interesting to learn more; it was exciting to think about what the next five years are going to be like. LISTEN TO ME! Insurance, budgets, IRA's - interesting and exciting?!!
Oh my god - I don't think coke and cheetos are going to soothe me this time! Quick somebody throw a keg party!!